Christmas cards still have a purpose

I’m not sure why I bought six boxes of Christmas cards this year, especially since we’ve been sending fewer and fewer recently. I noticed them while shopping for something else, and liked their designs. But mostly, I appreciated their messages. Each card reflected the real reason for the season – the birth of Christ. Cards like that seem as rare as trained cats.

After decades of tapping computer keys for a living, I have difficulty holding a pen. A dozen signatures at a single go may be legible, but my handwriting is all worm trails after that. So the Preacher acts as Mr. Secretary in the card department. It’s a job he does with ferocious concentration. Sitting at the kitchen table, pen in hand, cup of tea at elbow, he opens each card. Under the message, he signs our two names.

Honey,” I suggest to him yearly, “Can you write a little something that shows we care about the people who get them? ‘Love,’ or ‘fondly,’ or a caring note. Some kind of message?”

He looks dismayed. As though I’d suggested treason. “There already is a message.”

“No, Preacher man. A personal message from us! Otherwise, it’s just empty tradition!”

His face pained, he repeats the script we’ve practiced for decades: “How about I sign, and you add the message.”

One day, any day now, I expect I’ll return from work and see on the table two neatly stacked piles of sealed envelopes – one for the Post Office, the other for local delivery. Most will contain only the pre-printed message, and underneath that, just our two names. A few may contain a typed letter; even fewer, a handwritten note. That’s all we can manage between us for now.

The other night I dragged out a thick stack of Christmas cards received in past years. When I flipped through them, I noticed something. Most had only the senders’ signatures. No love or fondness added. That has always bothered me, but this year something happened when I looked at those cards.

I thought of our friends, sitting at their kitchen tables, pen in hand, cup of tea at elbow, opening each card and under the message, signing their names. Loved ones keeping in touch because they cared. I realized that even if those people couldn’t connect at any other time of the year, that signature alone said something.

It takes some effort to buy cards, sign them, pay postage and get them in the mail. And that effort often communicates something deeper than words. Something that, for various reasons, some people are unable to express otherwise.

We care. We really do love you. You matter to us. We want you to know we keep you in our hearts. We hope it matters as much for you to hear it as it did for us to say it.

Finally, I realize something. It does. It does.

Love came down at Christmas – Jesus’ love. Pass it on, by any and all means.